Life happens. Faith weakens. Temptations attack. Satan oppresses. Needs overwhelm. Sickness comes. Finances disappear. Divorce looms. Loneliness suffocates. Friends betray. In addition, decisions paralyze. Worries strangle. Careers stall.
The challenges of life confront us all. You cannot cancel your appointment with trouble. And you do not know when pain will show up in your life. Just be sure it’s coming. There is nothing you can do to stop it.
That’s the bad news. Here is the good news: Though you may not be able to control what happens to you in life, you can control how you respond. This is the wonderful benefit of the Christian life. To trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord does not bring an end to all of your troubles, no matter what some high-profile religious personalities falsely teach. To the contrary, following Christ will produce trials that you would never face otherwise (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12). Christianity is a battleground, not a playground. But faith in God ensures that you will never have to stand and fight alone (Ephesians 6:10–20). The believer can live with the assurance that the Lord is there (Psalm 46:1).
Yes, Christianity is a battleground. Yet the presence of your divine Ally provides sufficient resources for every struggle you face.
I repeat. There is nothing you can do to stop bad things from happening in your life. But you can determine your response.
You can turn the other cheek.
You can go the second mile.
You can love those who hate you.
You can bless those who persecute you.
You can forgive those who offend you seven times in one day.
You can overcome evil with good.
You can be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.
You can give thanks in all circumstances.
You can count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.1
In his little book, Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner defines what a Christian is for the uninitiated. “A Christian isn’t necessarily any nicer than anybody else,” he concludes. “Just better informed.”2 Isn’t that wonderful? Being a Christian does not make me superior to the unbelievers around me. It does give me options that the unbeliever does not have, or even know are available. Therefore, I do not have to respond to my problems as those who do not know God. I can choose to be happy. I can choose to trust. I can choose to love. I can choose to forgive. I can choose to hope again.
Some people are like thermometers. They only register the condition of their surroundings. Other people are like thermostats. They regulate the conditions they find themselves in. Their circumstances do not dictate how they think or feel or act. They have a spiritual “climate control” that enables them to be strong and stable and steadfast, whatever the situation.
The apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Philippi, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12–13). That is the testimony of a thermostat.
H. B. Charles Jr., It Happens after Prayer: Biblical Motivation for Believing Prayer (Chicago, IL: Lift Every Voice, 2013).
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